Skip to content

EK Climate Hub advises on improving air quality in your home when skies are smoky

It has been a very bad wildfire season in British Columbia, and even communities lucky enough to escape direct danger from wildfires endured very smoky skies.
More recent fires across the Okanagan has prompted a provincial smoky skies bulletin. (Jennifer Smith-Morning Star Photo)

It has been a very bad wildfire season in British Columbia, and even communities lucky enough to escape direct danger from wildfires endured very smoky skies.

The East Kootenay Climate Hub has offered tips on how to clean the air in your home during smoky days.

How to Clean Indoor Air….For Free

Wildfire season hit us this year with a vengeance. There has never been another year with this much fire and smoke in the history of Canada and we got our share in the East Kootenays. As global temperatures continue to rise, our ecological system will struggle to survive as plants and trees are designed to thrive within a narrow band of parameters of moisture, temperature, and light. Once those parameters are breached, everything is vulnerable, including humans. Those parameters are breached. The trend is to continue toward more extremes. Wildfires will continue to play an increasing role in our experience, affecting everyone with poor air quality. Anyone with respiratory challenges will be affected the most.

Defining the problem

Wildfire smoke causes particulate matter to float in the air. We can see it (and often smell it) when looking at long distances. It is not so obvious in our homes but it is there, and it is dangerous to our health. Particles up to the size of 2.5 microns are common in wildfire season but when fires are close by, we can breathe in much larger particles up to 10 microns. That can result in direct respiratory effects and even trigger other illnesses.

How to fix your indoor air quality for free

1. Most of our homes here in the Kootenays are equipped with forced air furnaces. Normally, they don’t operate during the summer months, but they are all equipped with a furnace filter. When the furnace is operating, it draws in stale air from the house, filters it, and sends it back to the heating outlets with warm air in the cold season. Here is what you can do: when there are smoky times, set your furnace to “Fan” and turn it on. This will clean the air in your house remarkably quickly.

Most furnaces have a MERV8 level filter. These are effective in removing 45 per cent of 2.5 micron particulates. For 95 per cent effectiveness, remove that filter and install a MERV13 filter (for 3M filters, look for MPR1900 or higher). One cautionary note on the latter.

MERV13 filter makes your furnace motor work harder and could reduce its life over time. For new furnaces, check with your warranty conditions for restrictions on filter types. Bonus: a MERV13 filter will also remove particles as small as viruses such as Covid-19.

2. The next lowest cost solution is to build a Corsi Rosenthal Box. It is DIY and will cost about $150. These clean huge volumes of air. Instructions are here: Contact East Kootenay Climate Hub for more information at

3. Portable air filtration systems. Look for a HEPA filter. If you want to clean a room such as a bedroom, units start at around $100. Larger units for bigger living spaces can run from $300 to $1000. If purchasing, check the sound levels as some are quieter than others. At the East Kootenay Climate Hub, we think it’s important to help people have access to cleaner air, especially the more vulnerable. East Kootenay Climate Hub

Carolyn Grant

About the Author: Carolyn Grant

I have been with the Kimberley Bulletin since 2001 and have enjoyed every moment of it.
Read more